Brexit means Brexit. It’s all very clear. Until you start drilling down into the details. Did 52% of voters in the 2016 referendum vote to leave the EU Single Market? Did they vote to leave the Customs Union? Did they vote to rejoin EFTA? Did they vote to create a hard border with Ireland? Was it a vote in favour of the Norway option? Or the Canada model? Was it for “no deal” and a return to trading under WTO rules?

At the best of times, interpreting referendum results and translating them into actual policy is a pretty thankless task. Political campaigns are always coalitions of different interest groups, so maintaining a fuzzy definition of the final outcome can help keep the coalition together. However, it also means that some of the people who voted in favour of Brexit are inevitably going to be disappointed with the result, no matter what it is.

What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from Alex, who thinks the UK needs a second referendum on the terms of the final Brexit deal. He believes this would be the most democratic way to proceed. Is he right?

To get a reaction we spoke to Pavlos Eleftheriadis, a Professor of Public Law and a Fellow of Mansfield College at the University of Oxford who teaches Constitutional Law, European Union law and the philosophy of law. Professor Eleftheriadis is also a barrister in England and Wales and practises in EU and public law. What would he say to Alex?

I totally agree with Alex, for two reasons. One is that the referendum campaign itself had very inaccurate descriptions of what Brexit would be like. They were very optimistic, and I don’t think they were correct. For example, they said that Britain would have 350 million pounds per week returned from the EU that it could spend on the NHS, which was highly inaccurate. That’s the first problem.

The second problem is that precisely because it’s so difficult to describe what the future relationship might be, no campaign could have done it correctly. So, we voted against what we had, but it wasn’t possible to vote “for” anything in the future, because there are (broadly) four different possibilities: no deal, the Switzerland deal, the Canada deal, and the Norway deal. They are all quite different, and of course the public hasn’t voted on any of them. The referendum result told us that most people were dissatisfied with the status quo in 2016. But, of course, politics is about what you want to do, not what you don’t what to do. And we haven’t yet decided what we want to do.

We also had a comment from Rémi, who believes that once the Article 50 process has been triggered, the UK must inevitably leave. Is he right? If Britain wants to change its mind, will it have to reapply for EU membership? Or is it legally possible to unilaterally revoke Article 50 before the two-year time limit is up?

There is disagreement among lawyers on this, but I think the unanimous view is that if all the other Member States of the EU want the UK to stay, they can do it. Article 50 says that the notification has a two-year deadline which can be extended if there is unanimity. Well, if it can be extended by unanimity, it can be stopped by unanimity. I think most lawyers agree with that.

The question is: Can the Article 50 two-year deadline be stopped unilaterally? Can the UK say: Right, I’ve changed my mind, we’re staying. And I think many people, including myself, believe this can indeed be done – it’s lawful. Because Article 50 says you notify your “intention”, but you don’t notify your decision. And that’s perfectly reasonable because you will only be able to make a decision once you know the terms of the future relationship. So, your intention means that you start negotiating – which is what we’ve done. And Article 50 says you must do it in two years, otherwise it could go on for far too long. So, it disciplines the parties. That’s the meaning of the two-year deadline.

So, my view is that if the UK changed its mind, especially if it had another referendum or a parliamentary vote (any constitutional method would be acceptable) then the Article 50 process can be stopped and the UK can stay in the European Union.

Finally, we had a comment from Coralee arguing that another referendum would be a betrayal of democracy. She believes it would be like saying: “Vote again until you give us the right answer”. Is she right?

Well, Parliament always revisits issues. It’s the democratic way of deciding things: We open the issues, we debate them, and we can change our minds. That’s why we vote every four years, because we change our minds. We vote Conservative one year, then four years later we vote Labour, or vice-versa. That’s how democracy works, and I don’t see why it should be different for referenda.

The question today would be very different, because if the second referendum happens then it won’t be about whether we like the status quo or not – which was the 2016 question. It will be the question: Do we like the new Brexit deal that has been negotiated? Do we want that future? Or do we prefer the status quo?

Remember, many people who voted to leave in 2016 thought that Britain could stay in the Single Market so that the car industry, for example, can have these parts moving back and forth without tariffs or red tape. Clearly if many of these people knew the consequences they would have changed their mind.

So, for me, the two questions are very different. That’s why the British government needs to be very careful about this. To be properly democratic, the choice needs to be: The new Brexit deal, or remain. They are now talking about something else: The new deal, or no deal, which would be a disaster for everyone.

Should Britain hold a second referendum on Brexit? Would a second referendum undermine democracy? And is it even possible? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – sgoldswo

125 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

    • Uli Czeranka

      and what if parliament says no?

    • Paul Vincent

      Then we exit without a deal.

    • Ivan Burrows

      Uli Czeranka There will be an election and the traitors will be removed from our government :)

  1. Mario Pisano

    I m just fed up of them they better just go fuck themselves they never felt fucking European with their driving upside down keeping the border and shit.
    Time to say bye bye and fuck the shit off for good

    • Paul X

      We in the UK drive on the correct side of the road…. I assume you are referring to Australian drivers when you refer to upside down?

  2. Hugo Miguel Carriço

    Na minha opinião, que vale o que vale, os ingleses pensaram que através do referendo, a UE ia andar atrás deles como cães. Afinal, a UE fez como num divórcio, “queres, então toma lá”, os ingleses ficaram com o melão.

  3. Ivan Burrows

    You wish lol, we knew exactly why we voted to leave the pointless EU & now the true motives of Brussels is to create an antidemocratic US of E is known even more people want to get out. But you can have Tony Blair if you want, we have no use for the traitor.

    • Vytautas Vėžys

      What makes you think that you will ever have full information?
      If founders of EU would know that it will turn out into political oppressive federal machine they would burn all those papers instead of signing them.

  4. Ariste Arvanitides

    ΝΟ, Britain should leave the EE and open the door for the rest of us to leave this NAZI, New World Order Dictatorship. We have had enough of sovereignty being stolen and natural resources being negotiated away under threats and bullying. Bring it down, it does not work.

    • Ivan Burrows

      The lies came from the remain traitors, luckily enough people didn’t believe them :) Will you miss us or just our money ?

    • Rob Eastham

      To be fair the remain camp was a bigger pack of lies. Project fear was the easiest campaign route but not honest with our obligations or membership status.

      I was one of the few remain campaigners who honestly campaigned yes and yes to a federal union. However, even I acknowledge that if federal union had been honestly told as the objective of the EU then the no campaign would have had a landslide Out victory! 👎

    • Dave Pannell

      Cameron : leaving the eu could lead to war / Obama Britain back of the queue / clegg no eu army and no eu superstate just some of the lies the pro eu tried to blackmail the uk public with

    • Ivan Burrows

      “What’s been done”? we are leaving a dictatorship so what else needs to be done ?

    • Martti Immonen

      Stop crying then. Check btw how UK acted inside EU? Like it still would be superior nation. Wrong again,so long UK.

    • Karolina

      Ivan, you sound so racist, arrogant and ridiculous that you are not even aware of it. If you want to do the UK a favour and portray it in a good light, just stop posting here.

  5. Victor Abreu

    Independente do resultado os ingleses tiveram o direito de votar – que eu não tenho.

  6. Vytautas Vėžys

    No. Referendum already happened and people spoke.
    If you value democratic people decisions you should not repeat votes till their match your expectations.

  7. Panos Kontogiannis

    What for? They already authorized the government to negotiate the exit deal and the exit article has been invoked . It’s final. The glass is now broken.

  8. Carlos Botelho de Vasconcelos Matias

    Since the next day there was already a considerable percentage of civil society that had changed its mind, because it did not know the full repercussions or what it would entail in its life, I think it would be both correct and imperative.

  9. Terry Tovey

    We have had the referendum and new what we were voting for. It now has to be delivered in its entirety.

  10. Frederico Carvalhao Gil

    De Gaulle refuse la division de l’Europe « artificielle et stérile » qui est « le pire mal de notre époque ». Sa volonté de modifier le statut quo rejoint ici le sens profond qu’il a de l’Histoire. Parce qu’elle est une réalité historique et géographique, l’Europe ne peut se réduire à sa partie occidentale. Le projet gaullien correspond à une grande ambition internationale : au sein d’une Europe réconciliée, à nouveau maîtresse de son destin, la France redevient, face aux Etats-Unis, un acteur central de la vie internationale. Il est aussi un grand projet d’équilibre et de paix. L’Europe de l’Atlantique à l’Oural inclut l’URSS ou du moins la Russie, car c’est à elle que de Gaulle se réfère le plus souvent, convaincu que les idéologies et les régimes passent alors que les Nations demeurent. Elle implique une réconciliation franco-allemande et un règlement du problème allemand pouvant aller jusqu’à la réunification. Les questions russe et allemande sont ici liées : lorsqu’elle ne sera plus ni totalitaire ni expansionniste, l’URSS contribuera à l’équilibre indispensable à la Paix.

  11. Paul X

    No, because promising a second referendum gives the EU the green light to give the UK the worst possible deal knowing full well it will swing the result.

    The UK has already voted for Brexit, therefore the only meaningful second referendum would offer the choice of either accepting whatever deal is given, or going for no deal

  12. Filipe Nunes

    Of course! There should be as many referendums as needed until the answer is the one you want!

    • Andrew Lucas

      The UK was never fully implicated in the EU, since they refused to join the eurozone and the Schengen Area.

    • Ivan Burrows

      Andrew Lucas The other Nations (included France) would have refused to join the idiotic eurozone and the migrant madness of the Schengen Area if they had been asked but asking the ‘people’ is not what the EU does. Paying for it now ain’t you.

    • Ivan Burrows

      No thanks, the EU is all yours and you can keep it, we are rejoining the free world :)

    • Seán Rohan

      An EU without UK is a leg that has been healed

    • Jude De Froissard

      The shengen area has nothing to do with the e.u…it is a separate treaty and countries out of the e.u. can be in schengen.

    • Jude De Froissard

      And countries and out of the eurozone can be part of the e.u. ..dear Andrew Lucas.

    • Magaly Morales

      Ivan Burrows A pity that the free world have little time for UK

  13. Savas Ozyurt

    Time for our own #EUReferendum. European Parliament, European Commission, and Council of the European Union, get it organized. We want a #Referendum on whether the UK should be allowed in, or whether it should be kicked out of the EU.

    • Kirstie Mamoyo Rogers

      No one is ‘kicking us out’ we’re leaving anyway. Do keep up

    • Savas Ozyurt

      Oh, were ya really? It sure doesn’t look like that right now.

    • Daniel Suranyi

      It’s not even about changing their mind. It is about the final deal, that they couldn’t vote on because it wasn’t on the table. The referendum expressed the willingness to leave, but without the conditions. It would only be fair and logical to also ask again once the condition are clear, if that is what the people wanted.

  14. Paolo Gazzola

    lol A referendum on a Referendum? Like asking citizens “are you sure you weren’t really that stupid?”.
    A second Brexit vote would be the asmission that voters aren’t responsible for themselves. As it is.
    I’d support a second referendum only if we accept the idea that not everyone suitable to vote when turning 18, that we must put requirements stricter than citizenship and coming of age, like “telling news from fake news, understanding a political program, understanding consequences and, most of all, the right of voting with a solid view of world and geopolitics.
    A citizen has to know and undestand glocal History, Sociology and Psichology.
    Otherwise, we’re gonna to ask to revote every stupid thing done with the use of fear, hatred and fake news.

    • Daniel Suranyi

      It is not all a referendum on a referendum. It is about the final deal, that they couldn’t vote on because it wasn’t on the table. The referendum expressed the willingness to leave, but without the conditions. It would only be fair and logical to also ask again once the condition are clear, if that is what the people wanted.

    • Paolo Gazzola

      Right, cause voters were too ignorant on referendum day, they did not understand its consequences and they didn’t know where it would have led.
      We let sheeple vote and here’s the result.

    • Paul X

      @Daniel Suranyi
      Every time you vote you never know exactly what you are going to get.

      A general election has all parties exchanging economic spin and half truths and
      once you elect a government you don’t get a chance to vote again once they actually deliver their first budget do you?

  15. Christos Georgiadis

    In my opinion, should the UK change its mind about Brexit (by whatever means it likes) the EU should only allow the UK to remain if the UK waives all claims to the various exemptions it has secured for itself over the years.

    • Kirstie Mamoyo Rogers

      Not a chance. We tried to get the EU to reform and they refused. This was the result.

    • Tiago Pereira

      What reform did UK propose to the EU? lol

    • Magaly Morales

      Tiago Pereira they tried to veto and oppose any social and political integration during all their time of membership.

  16. Mark Sjøberg

    Yes. Why should they ? 3 points here. 1. The civil war in Syria is hopefully coming to an end, which will lessen the stream of refugees considerably. Thereby removing much of the short sighted ammunition of the nationalist right. 2. Much of the information the average voter had on EU was at best faulty or lacking, if not downright false and misleading, In regards to so many things. Voters should be and I think are much more informed now, and so see much more clearly. 3. As both sides(EU & UK) have now seen what we all have to loose by UK leaving, concessions should be achievable for both sides, where issues were rigidly stuck before. All member states have some issues that should be taken seriously to make EU more transparent, and not too centralised and rigid. We need it as an entity in today’s world and in the future. So have a new referendum after these issues have been discussed. Good luck Europe.

  17. catherine benning

    Should Britain have a referendum on the final Brexit deal?

    Why? What has the EU offered the people of the UK that was not there before? They have made it very clear they intend to and will continue to import millions from the developed world for the Europeans, which would include us, to fund from birth to death. For no reason that I can see will be of benefit to us or be considered value for money. In fact the cost of this lunacy is against the best interests of any of Europes citizens.

    The EU has a failing economy, has no idea where it is going politically or strategically, has a problem with its decision to remain a dictatorship and the leaders are despised by the British in general.

    The mad woman leading Scotland will soon be thrown out by her constituents, she is planning and has already suggested giving the Scottish peoples vote to immigrants who reside in Scotland, thereby reducing the power of the Scottish people to decide who they want to lead them, so she is going to be out on her ear. The Conservative is set to get into power at the next GE there. For some reason the Scots like that woman? So, north of the border is contemplating whether staying in Europe will be such a good thing after all.

    Likewise, Northern Ireland. Plus, Southern Ireland is beginning to feel its rightful place is within the UK. The EU having become a betrayer of Westerners and their cultural magnificence. Have you seen what they plan for European school children?

    Is this what the majority of the European people want for the future of their families? I don’t think so. So, the only way to stop it is to remove your country from being part of the EU, for to remain prevents any possible deviation from the madness they love to force on us and hold us there by threats.

  18. Seán Rohan

    No!! England/UK has been a weight holding back the EU for years….the referendum needed is in Scotland so they can be independent and stay as EU citizens….but good riddance to the English

    • Stefan Versac

      So you want to put yourself in a corrupt and totally antidemocratic foreign system of crooks (EU) rather than with your brothers your own country for centuries?

    • Seán Rohan

      I am Irish..The English are definitely not “my brothers”…but the Scots deaerve to be EU partners instead of controlled by England

    • Daniel Suranyi

      Stefan: they are all brothers because they born in the same country as you? And they are all crooks because they are foreign? Interesting take on live…
      And to call a system democratic where your vote doesn’t count if the major party in your voting district has a sure majority is also an interesting take on democracy. You do known that the EU Parliament is voted for, right?

    • Paul X

      Rather than a weight, many EU members believe the UK has provided a much needed balance to control the rampant federalism of certain other countries

      …and a majority of Scottish people voted for the UK to remain in the EU, despite what Sturgeon would have you believe, that does not automatically mean that same majority want Scotland remain in the EU as an independent country

  19. EU Reform- Proactive

    How about scrutinizing the “EU”, by applying these popular pc (Brexit) comparatives to any “EU supranational“ democratic endeavors”? Including to expect full transparency- “beforehand”- of all still (unknown) “step by step”) EU nitty gritty unknowns?

    • Failure to agree & therefore not to possess a valid EU Constitutional Treaty.

    • Dismal low (43.09%) voter turnout at the (2014) EP elections.

    • No (significant) EU supranational referendum (ECI- bottom up) ever allowed by the EC to succeed…..

    Eurocates who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones……..”

  20. Jovan Ivosevic

    Enough drama with the Brits. The EU needs a lot of institutional reform to move forward and most of the necessary reforms are nonstarters to the UK. They have their coat and hat in hand. Time to make their way to the door.

  21. Magaly Morales

    The Brexit deal doesn’t include a trade deal because the EU can’t negotiate with a member so that referendum must take place at the end of the transitional period.

  22. Magaly Morales

    Besides the EU needs Britain out to advance on the European Project.
    Britain had and will oppose the European Project.

  23. David Fernandes Coelho

    The only thing I can say is I feel sorry for the normal english that voted stay because they will end up paying for the stupidy of those who voted out. The middle class in the UK will dissapear some of the richer will get poorer,and the elderly will suffer.

    • Paul Smith

      Or those who voted leave will pay with a watered down Brexit, due to the stupidity of those who voted remain 😁

    • Paul X

      “The middle class in the UK will dissapear some of the richer will get poorer,and the elderly will suffer.”…I don’t suppose you have any evidence to back up your fanciful predictions… I’d love to know where all the middle class are going to disappear to?

  24. Veronica Grigore

    Make list. What you will win and what you will loose . Compare and decid. For me to be independent is the most important but is a price for that.

  25. Karolina

    Yes, it should. It was a referendum that started the whole leaving process in a supposed exercise of democracy, so the same process should be followed to determine whether people accept the deal or want to stay in the EU or want to leave without a deal. You can’t only invoke democracy when it suits you because that is just manipulation and abuse.

  26. Gianfranco Coda

    a year and 1/2 on…
    Britons should by now have a more thoroughly view on what Brexit means to everybody…
    yes on a new referendum with a clear percentage of winning pre stated

    • Ugo Sais

      No. “Brexit means Brexit” and means CDS out of the City. We won’t miss you…

  27. John Jones

    I would prefer to see a free vote in Parliament on the final deal. But what position will the UK move to if the vote is to stay in the EU? It cannot be business as before.

  28. Magaly Morales

    Europe have now a golden opportunity to advance towards a United States of Europe. That is the most positive thing in Europe for 20 years.

    • John Jones

      That is not going to happen. There has never been any plan to merge the member states into a single country. That has always been the myth put around by the English.

    • Magaly Morales

      John Jones 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂this has always been the EU. From the very beginning. Britain tried to stop that all throughout its membership. It has delayed but not stopped. The United States of Europe will be a reality now that its inside enemy is getting out.

    • Antoine Che

      The enemy is inside! EU is killing Europe…
      Even with the UK out it wants to use the language of the Anglo-Saxon Empire as our official language…

    • Magaly Morales

      Antoine Che that is not true. EU leaders have already said the status of English as Working language will end after Brexit.

    • Paul X

      English is the working language of business globally not just the EU, they are free to drop it but dont expect the rest of the world to start doing business in French or German just to suit the ego of the EU

  29. merkurio

    No. It is already out. Dont waste more european time and sod off already.

  30. catherine benning

    Should Britain have a referendum on the final Brexit deal?

    I don’t think so! The decision the British people made, was, as always for us, the right one.

    Should Britain have a referendum on the final Brexit deal?

  31. Stefan

    The British people did not know what they voted for in their first referendum. They clearly should be able to reject a badly negotiated Brexit deal in a second referendum.

    • Paul X

      Actually the ballot paper was quite clear..

      “Should the UK remain a member of the EU or leave the EU”

      SImple choice, no reference to “soft Brexit” or any other options

      Stay in or leave everything was the choice given, and we voted to leave everything about the EU, was pretty obvious to anyone who can read

  32. catherine benning

    @ Stefan

    The British people are a lot smarter than the rest of you Europeans. We are pragmatic. Not suffering from foolish delusions driven by fake propaganda.

    Ask this question of yourself. When did you personally vote for the EU leadership? Can you call for a no confidence vote and get rid of them? Do you know how much personal money they have in their various accounts and when it arrived for them? And, most importantly, where those assets and money came from?

  33. John O'Neill

    The democratic vote was to leave, and leave we should. Those who try to oppose the peoples choice, by the use of their various negative opinions on the supposed final outcome of an actual deal are not helping the UK. The remainers seem to me to be a timid and frightened bunch opposed to change and new ideas, (this is not the way of the British People). They are trying to force their views on to the people by scare tactics which will make it harder to negotiate a fair and just outcome. Negotiations are never easy and no party are going to show their hand in negotiations, yet some fractions of the the British media seem to want to force this information from the Government and feed it to Brussels. Brussels in turn are using aggressive scare tactics via press releases which the UK media report, and which seems to be assisting them and making it more difficult for Theresa May and our Government to ensure we get a fair deal. If at the end of the negotiations we do not get a fair deal the remainers need to stand up and be counted, as it will not be the government’s fault. You cannot fight (negotiate) successfully with one hand tied behind your back. People will need to judge at the end of the negotiations who has influenced the final decision and if it is fair and just and if without the negativity we could have done better, as without doubt we will be leaving.

  34. kevin

    No because the referendum was about leaving or staying not on any final deal that the EU and the pro EU Tories come to .
    It doesn’t look like a final brexit deal will be anything other that a capitulation from the UK government where we keep paying in vast sums for access to various EU institutions . Only a Brexiteer leader in the future will take us out in the manor that 17 million people voted for .

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